Government assured of enough maize stocks to feed the nation

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Government assured of enough maize stocks to feed the nation

Lusaka, March 6, ZANIS ——-Government says the country will yield enough maize from the 2012/2013 farming season to feed its citizens Up to the 2013/2014 harvest.

Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives Robert Sichinga told parliament that although the official crop forecast survey results are not yet ready from his ministry and that the Central Statistics Office indications that the country is likely to yield above 2 million metric Tonnes.

Speaking when he delivered a Ministerial statement on the status of the ban on export of Maize grain and maize meal, the Minister observed that the country will only have a shortfall of 500,000 metric tonnes which will be met by the current carryover from the strategic reserves.

Mr Sichinga noted that the country has a total consumption of about 2.5 million metric tonnes while the current stock in reserves stands at over 700, 000 million metric tonnes of which 200,000 metric tonnes of excess maize will be exported.

The Minister stated that in order to contain maize and mealie meal prices, the Food Reserve Agency was allowed to sell a total of about 184,000 metric  tonnes to millers and communities between 1st January and 26th February this year, which he said left a balance of 733,529 metric tonnes of good quality maize grain purchased in 2012.

He added that the quantity is sufficient enough to last up to the 2013/2014 farming harvest, based on the current average consumption of about 100,000 tonnes per month.

Mr Sichinga stressed that based on the fore going, government has partially lifted the ban on the export of maize grain, mealie meal, maize grits and under grade maize in order to fulfil outstanding contractual obligations.

He assured the house that the country has sufficient maize reserves for the FRA to export some of the excess which he said would otherwise just go to waste due to poor storage adding that doing so will also free the much needed storage space to accommodate the 2013 harvest stocks.

But the Minister emphasised that only existing outstanding contractual commitments will be allowed to export maize and maize products except for processed, value-added maize grain products and under-grade maize will be allowed to be exported.

He said exporters who have contractual obligations will be allowed on condition that they produce authentic proof of agreement in order to be given an export license by the Ministry of agriculture.

And responding to Petauke Member of Parliament and many other MPs who wanted to know why the country was experiencing mealie meal shortage when the country has enough maize grains, the Minister revealed that the shortage is caused by lack of milling capacity in provincial centres.

Mr Sichinga explained that the country has enough grains apart from Lusaka and Copperbelt provinces, but there are no provincial milling companies to supply various districts as most of them have collapsed.

He cited Kwacha milling in Chipata district in Eastern Province as one of the milling companies that have folded up and caused shortage in the surrounding areas that relied on them.

Members of Parliament from various constituencies complained of shortage of mealie meal in their respective areas but the Minister of Agriculture made it clear that the problem is being looked into by government.

 He further assured MPs that his ministry is scheduled to hold meeting s with millers to see how the problem could be addressed.